Are you someone who has heard the words “positive psychology” or, the “science of happiness” thrown around here or there but are still uncertain as to what the field actually involves? There are a lot of pieces to this new, game changing science – no worries at all if you feel unsure as to what it’s all about. My hope is that this blog post will clear things up for you.
Lets get right into it – positive psychology, or what is sometimes referred to as the science of happiness, is the scientific study of what makes life worth living.
Positive psychology is grounded in the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
See, for a long time, psychologists thought if you took a person who was depressed and took their depression away, you’d have a happy person. But what we know now is that that is not true. Just because someone is not depressed, it doesn’t mean they are vibrant, filled with joy and genuinely loving their life.
And so, using the same scientific rigor that had been applied to studying what’s wrong with people and how to fix them, positive psychology’s aim is to understand what’s right with with people – its aim is to understand the breadth of human potential (with no intentions to replace traditional psychology – rather, to compliment it).
That being said, it is important to note that positive psychology is not a “happiology”. The last thing that I, or any positive psychology practitioner is interested in teaching is how to be “happy, happy, happy” all of the time.
It is extremely important that we feel sad, frustrated, and angry when it is appropriate.
Positive psychology is about what Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar calls, “the permission to be human.” Meaning, allowing ourselves to feel all of the emotions we are supposed to feel without getting stuck.
As I’ve continued to study positive psychology it has become clear that the reason only 17.2% of people in the United States are flourishing (where 56.6% are moderately mentally healthy and 26.2% are languishing/mentally ill) is because – in order to do so, we need to be familiar with the mechanics that enable this way of being.
Contrary to what society has led us to be, happiness is not something that we can simply expect to arrive. Positive psychology teaches us that sustainable happiness is a skill. It is something we have to learn and create for ourselves.
It is rare that a person would experience sustained flourishing without understanding how their physiology and psychology operate.
And my feeling is, life is just too short – we all deserve to live lives that, more often than not, overflow with positive emotions.
Research, strategies and tools are available to us now. We understand the mechanisms that contribute to thriving lives. With just a little curiosity and commitment, we can (all of us) educate ourselves and move in the direction of our dreams.
Positive psychology not only offers researched based solutions that help us to live as the highest expression of ourselves – it casts a light upon pathways that would lead to a real revolution.